The Beetle is based on the Golf, a car that offers a superb balance of comfort and superior driving dynamics. However, the base Beetle has been stripped of its multilink rear suspension and excellent electric power steering. Instead, there's a less sophisticated torsion-beam setup in the rear and overboosted hydraulic power steering. Power for the base car comes from the 170-hp five-cylinder that is peppy but somewhat gravelly at high rpm. If you're really interested in the sportier character that Volkswagen is hyping, you want the Beetle Turbo, which is much more true to the GTI that inspired it. Steering weight is superb, the suspension is firmer without being jarring, and prodigious power comes from the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The base Beetle uses a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, and the Turbo raises the engagement factor with a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic that delivers crisp, speedy shifts. The interior features slick body-color accents and the simple, intuitive controls that Volkswagen is known for. The bud vase of the first New Beetle is gone, but there's an optional second glove box high on the dashboard as a nod to the original Beetle. There's enough headroom for six-footers in the rear but only enough legroom for small children. The Golf and the GTI offer slightly better driving dynamics and more practicality, but if you're a sucker for style, the Beetle is a smart small car with substance beneath the surface.
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